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TMNT: The Mystery of the Cliffs

Recently, I became aware of a rare piece of Ninja Turtles history. In 1992, the Bureau of Land Management created an educational video to teach children about indigenous sites and land stewardship. What made this video unique is that it featured actors in the Coming Out of Their Shells outfits, but they were voiced by the original cartoon cast.

The program also contained an activities booklet to be used with the students featuring some TMNT artwork. Sadly, the program was never put into motion and from what I understand, it’s been sitting in government storage or some library since 1992, until someone digitized and uploaded a copy of the video to YouTube in 2020.

This rare piece of Turtles media is something I had never heard of until just a few weeks ago. I downloaded the activities booklet from this Lost Media Wiki post and was able to find the video rather easily on YouTube.

My wife is a geologist so I thought she might find it interesting, and we ended up watching the entire thing. It’s not bad and I’m sure in 1992 I would have loved it. There is a twelve-minute story or so with the Turtles, a special appearance by the foot clan, and Splinter. They utilize some of the score from the original film, which is strange to hear while the Turtles are hanging out in a cave, but hey, it’s a Turtles film!

After the story is over and some educational facts are dropped, the credits roll and then an activity portion of the video begins narrated by Donatello. It basically rehashes the comments made during the story (don’t take shards of pottery, don’t graffiti or damage historical sites, if you see someone doing it tell an adult, etc.) while showing a variety of different sites throughout the Southwest.

It seems like the idea was to get this video into classrooms across the nation and have the students make an informal choice to join the Turtles and help protect historical sites across the nation. It felt very 90’s, and well, we probably could use a bit of that today.

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